by Jeff Skinner
The Major Championship Season continues this week with the 34th U.S. Senior Open. The best seniors in the world will face a tough test as the USGA pays its first visit to Omaha Country Club.
You wouldn’t think that a course in the Great Plains state of Nebraska would have many ups and downs but Omaha Country Club’s hilly terrain will present an additional challenge to the competitors.
Playing for a national championship is always difficult but factor in a course that will test you physically as well as mentally and you have another challenge these seniors will have to face. Most of the competitors are used to the luxury of using a golf cart while playing on the Champions Tour but there will be no carts at this event as is standard in all USGA championships.
Players gave their thoughts on the challenging terrain during their pre-tournament press conferences:
” The hills are definitely going to be a factor for some players,” said 1996 British Open champion Tom Lehman, 54. “Especially combined with the heat, it becomes more of an endurance test than you might expect.”
“The biggest surprise to me was the amount of walking up to the tee boxes,” said two-time (1998 and 2000) U.S. Senior Open champion Hale Irwin, 68. “On some holes you probably have to walk 50 to 100 yards just to get to the tees, and then back downhill, so that takes a toll.”
“The downhill walks are always tougher on me,” said Gary Koch, who will be pulling double duty this week as an analyst for NBC and as a competitor. “When I was playing on tour, there was only one course where I ever got shin splints, and that was Augusta National because of all the walks off the elevated tees.”
“Fitness is a big factor,” said 59-year-old Mark McNulty of Zimbabwe. “I eat well and keep myself reasonably fit, and that definitely helps on a course like this.”
Let’s also remember that this championship is a full 72 hole tournament, not the three day, 54 hole event usually played on the Champions Tour.
Here’s a look at Omaha Country Club and the undulating property the players will face this week.